Authors: Jennah Scott
Tags: #Young Adult
I pushed my hair back. It was getting too long and kept falling in my eyes. “I don’t know man. I spend more time at the office and school than I do my own home. She’s someone to talk to, that’s all.”
Chris let a low rumble out from his chest. “Whatever. She likes you. My sister’s been at that office for the last four years and not once called me to help out a patient. I’m pretty sure it breaks all kinds of privacy regulations. That’s all she ever talks about, how she can’t say anything about the clients because of confidentiality. This is throwing me right in the thick of things.”
I shrugged my shoulders and gave Chris a quick nod before turning to look out the passenger side window. The rest of the ride to the office was quiet. I knew Stacey didn’t like me. The only thing she talked about was finishing school and becoming a shrink.
When we walked through the glass doors of the office I immediately looked to the desk in the entryway. I knew who I’d see. I wanted to see her. Something about the way the light hit her cheeks causing them to shine made me relax. Being able to get even a glance of her spiky hair and blue eyes was enough to wipe away the day. After that nothing else mattered, fights, arguments, rages, none of that bothered me. That was one of the reasons I hadn’t forced Mom to find a new shrink. Stacey and Dr. Greenberg were my saviors. They were the only two people that actually listened to me, and made me feel like there might be people that gave a shit about what happened to me.
Stacey held up a finger telling us to give her a minute. The headset was wrapped around her head and hooked over her ear. At least once a week I got a good laugh when it caught in her hair. She’d tug and tug trying to pull it out. When I finally pulled myself together I’d help her out. It wasn’t trouble really, her hair felt like heaven running through my fingers.
I looked to my right where Chris stood.
The resemblance wasn’t strong, but I saw they shared the same ocean blue eyes.
Chris grabbed her attention then tapped the watch on his wrist. Stacey covered the mouthpiece then turned to Chris. “Just a minute. Don’t go anywhere.” He sighed and moved towards the fish tank sitting to the left of the entrance.
No one knew it, but I loved fish. It didn’t upset me when my mom or Dave was late picking me up. On those days I took pleasure in watching the fish and talking to Stacey. The tank was filled with salt water and held a dozen exotic fish. I took on a personal assignment to research every one of them.
My phone was full of pictures I’d taken. I’d spent most of my time at home comparing and learning.
When Stacey asked about my fascination with them I shrugged it off. People handled my rages better when all they saw was an asshole kid rather than someone that actually had a passion for something.
I slumped onto one of the black leather chairs that sat in a semi-circle around a short stubby table. Magazines sat there, begging to be read, but I didn’t see anything that looked worth my time. Instead I closed my eyes and tried to remember something, anything, about the afternoon. I rubbed my temples. Nothing, absolutely nothing.
A warm caress on my arm brought me back to the empty lobby area of the office.
“Remember anything?” Stacey’s voice drifted through the little bit of remaining fog.
“It’s okay. Dr. Greenberg will help you.”
“Is she here yet?”
She shook her head. “I’m sorry. Not yet.”
I stood up, throwing Stacey’s hand off my arm. “I can’t stay here all day. I’ve got to go back to school, or something. I don’t know.”
With an unfamiliar strength, Stacey shoved me back into the seat. “You promised me. Now keep your promise and sit down. I’m going to go talk to my brother. Don’t leave.” She pinned me with one final look before heading over to talk to Chris.
I watched her walk over to him with a little shake in her hips. He stood with his hands shoved deep in his pockets glaring as she made her way towards him. I smiled at the protectiveness, glad to know someone watched out for her. Not that I would ever hurt her, but Chris didn’t know that.
“You ought to leave that twerp alone. You’re getting in too deep, Stace.” Chris didn’t hide anything.
In fact, I knew he raised his voice so I could hear exactly what he had to say. Stacey, however, lowered hers enough that I couldn’t hear her response.
“He’s a high school pain in the ass. Let the doctors try to fix him. It’s not your job.” Chris ended their conversation with a quick hug and walked out. Stacey tugged on a strand of hair that fell down her cheek and bit the corner of her lip.
It was a nervous habit of hers. I’d spent hours watching her tug her hair and nibble her lip while she studied. That was how I learned which classes caused her more problems and which ones she breezed through.
After a few minutes of staring at the empty doorway Stacey shook her head and turned back to me.
“Look, Dr. Greenberg should be back in a few minutes. You need to talk to her about what happened today. Maybe she can help you with school, too.” I gave her a quizzical look. “You know, expulsion. This is your third fight. They aren’t going to let that stand without punishment.”
I noticed the rigidity in Stacey’s stance.
She hadn’t relaxed since Chris left.
For a split second before talking to him, I had a chance to see a different side of Stacey. No longer the stuffy professional receptionist, she’d been relaxed and determined.
Looking at her now as she stood in front of me with her shoulders pulled back and face wiped of any emotion, I understood what drew her to me.
It wasn’t that she cared for me, but her determination no matter what the situation. Whatever Chris said to her, she was now unwavering in her attempt to keep a professional distance from me.
The leather squeaked as I shifted in the chair again. I glanced down at my watch, two and a half hours. An hour ago I tried to ask Stacey where Dr. Greenberg was, but her only response was a flick of the wrist and point to my chair. She hadn’t spoken to me since her brother left, and that bugged me more than anything.
It wasn’t unusual to wait for the great Dr. Greenberg. She kept her own hours and changed for no one. I loved that about her. I was the same way, but Dr. Greenberg was the one person who let me show it.
Stacey not talking to me, however, was unusual. Our conversations were nothing more than small talk. How was the weather? What classes are you taking this semester?
What had her brother said that shut her down? I couldn’t stand the weight of the silence that filled the waiting room.
I stood and straightened my jeans then casually closed the short distance between the desk and me.
Stacey had her earpiece stuck in her ear and she kept her head down, on the phone once again. The calls were never ending. I refused to let her ignore me, so I leaned against the marble top on my arms. I found myself whistling along with the soft rock music that filtered through the speakers from a local radio station. Stacey slanted her chin to the side and looked at me with a glint in her eyes that told me she wasn’t happy. If that wasn’t enough, the slight tilt of her mouth was. My whistling pissed her off, whether or not it was because I was a bad whistler or because I was bothering her, I didn’t know. I didn’t care. This was the first time she’d troubled herself to acknowledge me in the last two hours.
“What can I help you with Mr. Pierce?” For a split second Stacey hesitated, but quickly recovered and wiped her face of emotion once again.
“It’s not Pierce. That’s Dave’s name. You know that.”
Streaks of red filled my vision and my hands tightened into fists as I pulled my arm back. I knew what came next, and prayed I’d be able to fight it. A swoosh of air left me when I tried to count backwards from ten. My gaze flickered over Stacey to the black wall behind her.
The calming technique Dr. Greenberg taught me pushed through the darkness of my thoughts. Concentrate on the letters behind the desk. T….1, 2, 3, 4, 5 H…1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
I repeated the process until I made it through the office name. Something about the combination of letters and numbers forced me to refocus on something other than anger.
Five. Deep breath in, exhale, in, exhale
She stood up, leaned over the desk and laid her hand on my arm. “Luke, I’m so sorry. Please look at me. Talk to me. Do something.” Stacey’s voice broke through to me.
I shook my head and grasped my hair. With the heel of my hands I squeezed my eyes shut once more before refocusing on Stacey.
“I’m fine. Just…just leave me alone. Don’t talk to me.” I pivoted on the ball of my foot and clomped back to the chair.
Still reeling from Stacey’s words I lowered my head into my hands and shut my eyes once more.
I didn’t know why it bothered me so much when people called me Pierce. Other than I figured you ought to respect the person whose last name you take. In no way did I respect Dave. That’s why when mom asked me if I wanted him to adopt me and take his last name, I refused. People around here must have thought I was crazy, because they continuously called me Pierce.
“Luke, oh my God. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it. Chris thought we were getting too close, and – well – I considered what he said. I have to stay professional. I can’t become attached to any of the clients here. Especially you. ”
Especially me. Did she…no that wasn’t possible. “Fuck off Stacey. I don’t need your sympathy right now.”
I knew I screwed up when the click clack of Stacey’s heels was replaced with sniffling and the swish of Kleenex being pulled from the box.
Dr. Greenberg came through the front door before I had time to figure out how to correct my mistake with Stacey. I let out a loud sigh.
“Luke?” She jumped and clutched her chest. “What are you doing here?”
I lifted my head just enough to catch Stacey through the hair that fell over my eyes.
Her shoulders were stiff again. I watched her eyes dart up to see my expression then quickly return to her computer screen.
“Uh, excuse me, Dr. Greenberg.” She whipped her head to look at Stacey.
“I left you a voicemail about Mr. Sullivan. He had an altercation at school today, and I instructed him to come over after he left the police station.”
“Oh, Luke.” Dr. Greenberg whispered. She straightened her hair, adjusted her skirt, and turned back to me. “Okay, give me five minutes.” Without looking at Stacey she said, “Can you please bring Mr. Sullivan back to my office then?”
Right on time, Stacey rolled back in her office chair and tilted her chin in my direction. I shrugged before standing and rubbed my hands on my jeans to dry them off. Dr. Greenberg didn’t scare me or make me nervous. My sweaty hands were more due to the episode with Stacey.
I was both surprised and confused by my reaction to her words. She’d never said anything to upset me, and yet, this time I’d almost lost it. The urge to attack was strong. I almost hit a girl
My breathing became labored and the room spun.
“Luke, come on. Come back to me.” Once again Stacey stood there, calming me.
I took a deep breath. “I’m fine. Look, I know where her office is. You don’t have to take me back.” Stacey gave a silent nod and returned to her chair.
I knocked on the door to Dr. Greenberg’s office then nudged it open.
“Come in, Luke.”
Shuffling into the office, the soles of my shoes snagged in the carpet causing me to stumble. After righting myself I sat on the black leather couch against the wall. Dr. Greenberg was already in her “talking” chair, as she called it, with paper and pen in hand, ready to discuss the day’s events. Her talking chair was one of those ergonomic office chairs.
She casually rocked back and forth, tapping her pen on the corner of the pad.
Her gaze went past me to the picture that hung on the wall behind the couch. I knew the photo. It was a simple picture of a beach at sunset. I thought it was meant to be calming, but it looked like a kindergartner’s painting and I found it comical.
“Tell me what happened today, please.”
I settled onto the couch and my head hit the back with a thump. I squeezed my eyes shut, willing my conscience to remember something, anything, but failed. When I opened my eyes again my gaze remained on the ceiling. It was one of those popcorn jobs with the little pieces that always looked like they were going to fall on your head. I counted as many pieces as I could before Dr. Greenberg cleared her throat.
“This morning Mom and I got in a fight again.”
“Over what?” Dr. Greenberg knew about my parents. Why she insisted I tell her exactly what we fought over I wasn’t sure.
“Luke, I need you to tell me.”
I sighed. “Fine. We fought over the asshole again.”
Dr. Greenberg took a few notes, moved from tapping the pad with her pen to tapping to her chin then started with more questions. “What did you say?”
“That I didn’t understand why she insisted on staying with him.” She lowered her eyes and waved me on. “She says she loves him. But I don’t get it. How could she possibly love someone that’s messed everything up? Would it really be that hard to leave?”